abigail review

Abigail (2024)

Abigail (2024) Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

I must confess that I’m growing tired of continually witnessing the same old trick failing; I find too hokey the fatuous belief that by twisting modes and thoughtlessly tinkering with shifting the genre of a film’s storyline one can circumvent the tired clichés employed ad nauseam in the horror genre, and I find even more foolish the clumsy notion of assuming that by simply sidestepping well-established tropes a film can pose as a successful reinvention of the traditional horror mythology.

There is nothing fresh about Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s super ridiculously specific Abigail, modernizing doesn’t necessarily mean improving, much less representing a novelty, it’s one or the other, there is no middle ground, if you’re really going to venture into making a movie that deals with a mythological horror creature from an angle diametrically opposed to its nature, then do it but under your own terms and rules, don’t pretend to recycle what has been used and then camouflage it in another identity trusting that the audience will confuse your phony, cosmetic façade with an artful revamping of old stereotypes. Abigail is primarily a thriller about six ordinary criminals kidnapping the eponymous ballet dancer in order to extort a substantial sum of money for her ransom, after that, it’s a vampire flick choreographed like an unfunny comedy sketch, oh hang on, spoiler alert, right?! Nah, don’t sweat it, by that stage the movie has already given away the whole bloody story, moreover, it has the bright idea of featuring the vampire’s name in its title! Yet the dual direction of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett approach the entire first act as if there’s a plot twist to be discovered. Can you imagine going to see Tod Browning’s Dracula and the whole first act the movie wants to lull us into doubting whether Lugosi is the Prince of Darkness or not? Silly, I know, we know from the very beginning that Lugosi is Dracula and that he is a vampire. Or can you even picture yourself going to see Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys, and the plot wants you to convince you that Kiefer Sutherland is just a punk hoodlum when obviously we all know he’s a creature of the night?

Abigail resorts to certain awkward and rather lazy narrative devices that only aim to conceal its shortcomings as a polymorphous comedy-horror film. The first of these is to peddle the idea that we’re watching a sort of horror-style Reservoir Dogs, the second is to craft the scenario of a bloodsucker on the loose hunting his prey in a mansion where there’s no escape. This one ultimately functions unlike the first one, however it is cartoonish in individual sections and frightful in collective portions, i.e. the comedy never quite meshes with the bloodshed, culminating in a flat-out stupidity that I haven’t experienced since 1998’s Blade. As I mentioned, the movie switches genres in an erratic manner, never homogeneous, it’s as if the camera suffers from some kind of bipolarity since every time it intends to humanize the characters it immediately forgets about them and embraces the vampire-hunting folly once again. Melissa Barrera, Dan Stevens, Will Catlett, Angus Cloud, Kathryn Newton and Kevin Durand play the six abductors, very divergent in comparison to each other, but movie-wise, they’re fairly stereotypical. All of them, who start out as the bad guys in the movie and the perpetrators, wind up being the victims of the one who was originally the victim, Abigail played by Alisha Weir.

Throughout the schizophrenic mood reversals of the plot, the performances seem to be doing what they’re meant to do. They are playful, moronic and serviceable most of the running time, but there is nothing – aside from pathetic seconds of extraneous sensitivity – that manifests any trace of redeemable emotion to at least make the vampire slaughter a worthwhile diversion. By redeemable emotions I mean feelings that express the fear and desire to live of these people, who clearly have been saddled with a murky backstory to render the murderous scenario more threatening to them. There’s none of that here, because the movie sacrifices character development for oodles of over-the-top gore along with extremely puerile violence, far too juvenile for my viewing pleasure. It’s exhausting, Dan Stevens is the only one delivering an objectively decent performance, the others do what they can, and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s freewheeling filmmaking takes up too much space, it’s overdone, it’s gaudy; Scream fits them better.


Matteo Bedon

Written by

Editor and Official Film Critic at CelluloidDimension.com

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